Team on the rise: It's hard for Mount Paran to go any further than the state quarterfinals, but the Eagles, out of Kennesaw, return at least 17 starters and most of their skill players one year after outscoring opponents 387-203.
Team on the decline: The Walker Wolverines went undefeated in the regular season and reached the second round of the state playoffs in 2012. Last season, the school from Marietta went 5-5. This year the Wolverines have a new coach in Matt Casper.
Toughest schedule: Mount Paran opens the season against Eagle's Landing Christian Academy, which went 11-1 and lost by one point in the third round of the 2013 playoffs. The Eagles also will face North Clayton, which is a Class AAA school.
Dream schedule: The Trion Bulldogs open with old rival Gordon Lee, which moved up to Region 7-AA, and then will face Armuchee, which went 1-9 last year. The Bulldogs' toughest nonregion game should come Sept. 12 at Class AAAA LaFayette.
Players to watch: Mount Zion running back Trey Kennedy rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, and Mount Paran's Dorian Walker can change a game with one play because of his speed and elusiveness. Christian Heritage linebacker Evan Townsend and teammate Matt Cook anchor the Lions' defense, while Nasir Porter is a newcomer who could ignite the offense. Trion's Drake Clowdis is one of the most physical and strongest players on the team. Offensive tackles rarely stand out on a play-to-play basis, but Trion's Addison Meeler make it look easy.
Predicted order of finish: Mount Paran is the team to beat. Then Christian Heritage and Trion are next in line, followed by Mount Pisgah, Mount Zion and Walker, in that order.
Trion and Christian Heritage have no rivalry.
It's hard to develop one between the established Bulldogs and a school playing its third season in the Georgia High School Association.
But it could be coming.
If for no other reason than they're the only two schools in Region 6A-A that are closer to Chattanooga than the Atlanta suburbs.
"Us and Trion are pretty isolated," Christian Heritage coach Preston Poag said. "All of the other schools are around Marietta."
The GHSA reclassification of schools bumped the likes of Bowden, Bremen, Darlington and Gordon Lee -- Trion's main rival -- to a different region.
It wouldn't be much fun having a rival 90 minutes away, so Poag's Lions in Dalton and Trion's Bulldogs could give it a go.
"I think we will have a rivalry with Trion," said Poag, who is 1-1 against Trion. "When the cream rises, that's when it becomes a good rivalry. Or if it's two local teams, even if one [or both] have a bad record, then it's still a big game."
The other schools in the 6A-A subregion are Walker, Mount Paran, Mount Pisgah and Mount Zion, all of which are south of the interchange between I-75 and I-575. Walker is in Marietta, Mount Parman is in Kennesaw, Mount Pisgah is in Johns Creek, and Mount Zion is in Carrollton.
"We know that playing in the region that we'll have to make a couple of trips to the Cobb area to play games, and that's the way it is," Trion coach Justin Brown said. "We have to be ready for it.
"The travel isn't too bad this year, but next year we'll have to make sure we have good tires on the bus."
The bus ride between Christian Heritage and Trion is about 45 minutes, the shortest trip either team will have for a region game. The Bulldogs' season opener is at home against Gordon Lee, and then they travel about 30 minutes to Armuchee and 15 minutes to LaFayette for nonregion games.
"It's not like we had anybody from our region in our back yard anyway," Brown said. "That's why it's important for us to come out of the gate well."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.